Federal judge orders IRS to explain lost emails

Messages linked to Tea Party controversy allegedly lost when computer crashed
Associated Press
Jul 10, 2014


A federal judge on Thursday ordered the IRS to explain under oath how it lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency's Tea Party controversy.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan gave the tax agency a month to submit the explanation in writing. Sullivan said he is also appointing a federal magistrate to see whether the lost emails can be obtained from other sources.

Sullivan issued the order as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group. He said the IRS declaration must be signed, under oath, by the appropriate IRS official.

"I'm going to hold tight to that Aug. 10 declaration," Sullivan said.

The IRS says it lost the emails in 2011 when Lois Lerner's computer crashed. At the time, Lerner headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. She has since retired.

Lerner, who refused to answer questions at two House committee hearings, has become a central figure in several congressional investigations over the handling of tea party applications. At both hearings, Lerner cited her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has testified on the lost emails before Congress at least three times. Each time he was under oath.

Koskinen said he first learned there was a problem with Lerner's computer in February but didn't learn that emails were lost until April. The IRS notified Congress June 13.

Judicial Watch lawyer Ramona Cotca complained that the IRS never informed her group or the court about the lost emails, even though Sullivan had ordered the IRS to produce documents related to the information request on a monthly basis.

Geoffrey Klimas, a Justice Department lawyer representing the IRS, said the agency had no legal obligation to tell Judicial Watch about emails that may have been destroyed two years before the group filed its request for information.

Judicial Watch filed a series of requests with the IRS shortly after the tea party controversy erupted in May 2013. Among its requests, the watchdog group wanted communications Lerner had with others concerning the handling of applications for tax-exempt status since Jan. 1, 2010.

Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the IRS in October, saying the agency didn't produce any documents. Since then, the IRS started to produce some documents in February, Cotca said.

On Thursday, Cotca asked Sullivan to conduct a limited discovery to determine what happened to the emails, perhaps compelling testimony from IRS officials. But Sullivan said that would be premature.

Klimas noted that the tax agency's inspector general is conducting an investigation into the lost emails. Klimas said the inspector general has asked the IRS not to question witnesses that may have information about the lost emails to avoid interfering with its investigation.

Sullivan said the sworn IRS statement should include information about the inspector general's concerns.

Sullivan said he would assign federal magistrate John Facciola to look into ways of obtaining the IRS records from other sources, though it is unclear how much information could be recovered.

In 2011, the IRS had a policy of backing up emails on computer tapes, but the tapes were recycled every six months, Koskinen told Congress. He said Lerner's hard drive was recycled and presumably destroyed, after technicians in the agency's criminal investigations unit tried unsuccessfully to restore it.

The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 period because she had copied in other IRS employees, Koskinen said. As part of the congressional investigations, the IRS said it is producing a total of 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013.

IRS lawyers are due back in federal court Friday before a different judge for a hearing on the lost emails in a separate lawsuit filed by a group called True the Vote. The group, which says it advocates for the integrity of elections, sued the IRS over delays in its application for tax-exempt status.


2cents's picture

Who cares, the IRS lied! They singled out people and groups when they are to be TOTALY NON PARTISIN. They lose because I have paid my taxes with respect to them for half a century. I will now never trust that organization again for the rest of my life!


Lucy.. 'Splain..

Does anyone REALLY believe that holder will follow this to the end?


Just another day in the most "Transparent " admin in history. Where is the Obama libtard squad that is going tho throw themselves under this bus in the admins defense?

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

Gettin drunk on the kool-aid.

2cents's picture

On another note, in 2011 the IRS sent me a letter, Note the IRS does not send email to citizens! They claimed that we did not pay our June 15 estimated taxes, myself being a good housekeeper just thought it was a small oversight, after all they never bothered us in 30 years because we always did our part as honorable Americans. I provided the canceled checks showing they had cashed the checks and they had cleared the bank. Again they harassed us saying that the SS number on the check did not match the deposit and that unfortunately the stub can be separated from the check envelope. Well I had used Photoshop to show them that the SS number had been altered after the check was hand written by yours truly. That shut them up until the next quarter, again they claimed that we had not made our September quarter deposits, please remember this took place an entire year later 2011. Again we had to jump through the hoops to prove to them that we made the deposits and that they had cashed the checks.

The most comical ending to this story is that we had given the Tea party a $50.00 donation in 2010 just for fun because we had been disappointed in our administration. Again never in 30 years as a tax payer were we ever questioned. Well the next time, with all my records there will be a BIG lawsuit and we will prove that the people I one time respected to keep tax payers honest have stepped into the political arena and will be held accountable to the tune of say $100,000,000.00 in reparations : )


hang her!


or, is that racist?

Dr. Information

In this day and age you cannot simply "lose" emails unless there are several steps taken to destroy any and everything the email images were stored on.

IRS lied and the liberals want a coverup.

There you go again

"There's not a smidgen of evidence of foul play." No, Mr. President, there's more like an "avalanche" of evidence. What? Another lie? Say it ain't so, Obama.


An email was just uncovered where Ms Lerner warned IRS staff "to be careful what they say in emails, do to the fact congress might subpoena them". Sounds like the smoking gun to me. Not a smidgen of corruption? LOL Mr president


Pres. Obama:

“Not even mass corruption. Not even a smidgen of corruption.”

A liar or clueless - probably both.



Where oh where is the koolaid gang this morning defending their messiah?


May 2009:

"Obama turns controversy into jokes, lesson at commencement":

"'I learned to never again pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA bracket,' he said, referring to the school's basketball team. 'It won't happen again.'

'President [Michael] Crow and the board of regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS,' he joked."

Yea, the power of the IRS and other govt. agencies to ruin citizens' lives is REAL funny.

Based on his low polling numbers, The *sshole-in-Chief's entire admin. has become a joke.


The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

About as funny as crack in pies and bowling like you were in the Special Olympics.

The Big Dog's back

There were more Progressive groups targeted than tealiban groups. Of course, right wingnuts won't lets facts get in the way.


You should be more upset about the fact that they are targeting people!!! Your statement is ridiculous. Shows everyone cranial rectosis is strong with you. You want to know the sad part dog? If the IRS was targeting you for your belief's I would be just as upset, don't get me wrong I think your political belief's are ignorant, but you shouldn't be targeted for what you believe in .


This is a copy of the Inspector General's report. To read the highlight findings scroll down to the second page and read this: WHAT TIGTA FOUND


You can read the whole thing if you want.


The only places that somewhat back what piddles claims are leftwing nut job blogs, I will let you search them out here is what Washington Post said. Last paragraph.

“That line presents further evidence that Tea Party groups were differentiated and segregated from other applications and is consistent with other evidence that Tea Party groups were treated differently,” Hill said. “The fact that there is no indication (on the document or elsewhere) that there was a “Progressives coordinator” is further evidence of disparate treatment.”


Here is Pundifact:


Brazile said the IRS was "looking at everybody" including liberal groups and progressive groups. Yes, some progressive groups did have their tax-exempt status applications flagged as the IRS reviewed whether nonprofit groups were engaging in political activities.

But it wasn’t to the same degree as tea party and other conservative groups, nor did it result in the same actions. The list targeting tea party groups resulted in delayed processing that in some cases lasted almost three years and inquiries into their donors. Further, the inspector general found tea party groups were systematically singled out as part of an office-wide effort, while progressive groups were not.

Weighing all of this, we rate Brazile’s comments Half True.


I will let piddles link to his leftwing, nutjob blogs like dailykos and think progressive and pravda to make his point.

I will let you read the Inspector General's report, some mainstream articles, and make up your own minds. Isn't that better than a one line drive by?


I don't care whether the IRS targeted groups over conservative politics, progressive politics, religion, or anything else. The IRS shouldn't be TARGETING anybody! They should collect and disburse taxes, and prosecute fraud in direct connection with those things whenever and wherever they find them. That's it. DONE.

The IRS is clearly deeply corrupt. But then, so are at least some parts of virtually EVERY federal agency, up to and including the Obama administration. We the People SERIOUSLY need to clean house! Even if things have turned out your way THIS time, what's to prevent YOU from being targeted unreasonably next time? Only us. I sincerely suggest that, regardless of political ideology, we all get together at least on THAT much!


Those such as Big dog find this acceptable even though as he claims the Liberals were targeted way more than the tea party. It goes to show some political ideology's are filled with hypocrites that see abuses made by the government as alright as long as their "team" is in office. It is those same people who actively act to destroy our system.

Coram Deo


"The facts are simple. The IRS systematically targeted conservative and Tea Party groups after their activism proved decisive in the 2010 midterm elections—Obama’s famous “shellacking.” The effects of this targeting were widespread. Some Tea Party groups were neutered in the months before the 2012 presidential election.

Few of the explanations or justifications of this targeting provided by IRS leaders and Obama administration officials have held up. IRS officials at first denied that any targeting had taken place. That was false. They later claimed that the targeting had involved only low-level employees in the Cincinnati office. That was false. They argued that conservative groups weren’t singled out, that progressive groups were subject to the same level of scrutiny. That was false. They argued that the IRS has complied with all requests for information from Congress. That was false."


The Big Dog's back

If the money is going towards politics they should be taxed.


Maybe they learned from Nixon going after his enemies via the IRS.


Maybe. Now if we could just learn one OTHER thing from the Nixon admnistration: HE was IMPEACHED for it!

The Big Dog's back

I think they should target a lot of groups including churches and other tax exempt groups. If they're preaching politics, tax 'em.


Re: "If they're preaching politics, tax 'em."

H*ll Sport, Pres. Obama's pal AG Holder showed 'em how to get away with it.

"Eric Holder, IRS officials coached tax-exempt black ministers on how to engage in political activity"


Adjust your anal probe.

The Big Dog's back

What's the point of your off topic reply?


To show that, as usual, you have no clue. Do you have anymore stupid questions?


Re: "off topic reply"

Point: Pres. Obama and Dems LIKE black churches preaching politics.

Again: You need to have your Obama-speak anal probe adjusted. The transmissions are coming into your brain garbled.

Coram Deo

Sam...just a friendly FYI. Nixon was never impeached. Articles of impeachment were being drawn up but he resigned which essentially stopped the process. The interesting parallel in all of this is the second article of impeachment which was the abuse of the IRS to go after political enemies. This is a "high crime". Nixon's 18 minute erased taped seems trivial compared with Obama's (Lois Lerner's) 2 years of missing emails. Clearly the story that started out with a rogue employee in the Cincinnati office has blossomed to outright total involvement of the Washington DC IRS office. Find the emails, you'll find the offender which could very well lead to the Oval Office.

The Big Dog's back

So Obama was behind the IRS involvement? Totally delusional.


Really puppy? How can you make that assumption when 2 years of emails were destroyed!